updated 04:25 pm EDT, Wed July 21, 2010
iPhone for T-Mo US seen in late talks
Apple is deep into negotiation that will have an iPhone on T-Mobile US by the fall, a rumor today insists. The two are reportedly in talks at an "advanced stage," and the T-Mobile source for the story claims that the negotiations have progressed enough that it's "80 percent likely" a deal will be finished for the ongoing third quarter, which ends in September. The employee told Wired that T-Mobile's parent Deutsche Telekom directly influenced the decision.
T-Mobile already carries the iPhone in some of Europe, but its arrival in the US has always carried extra challenges compared to abroad. Due to FCC spectrum auctions, T-Mobile in the US needs to run the 1,700MHz and 2,100MHz bands for 3G. While the 2,100MHz band is common abroad and is supported by the iPhone 4, going without the 1,700MHz band would still lead to a drop to 2G in many cases. T-Mobile was also relatively late to 3G and doesn't have as wide a network as AT&T or any of the CDMA carriers.
However, a T-Mobile phone is potentially more realistic for Apple from a design perspective. As it already uses GSM, the iPhone 4 wouldn't need to be redesigned for a new cellular chipset and the absence of a SIM card slot. Apple has said in the past that it was happy with GSM as it meant producing a single phone design that could still address the majority of the world.
An expansion to T-Mobile in the US could be just part of a much larger strategy to service every major carrier. Rumors have been gathering momentum for a Verizon iPhone by January that would start production right as it's claimed T-Mobile would have its agreement. Discussions of a Sprint model have also surfaced but have had little support other than that it would make sense to offer a CDMA iPhone on more than one US provider.
A multi-carrier iPhone strategy in the US would both reflect the expected end of AT&T's exclusivity sometime this year as well as Apple's determination to thwart Google. Much of the success of Android so far has been partly due to its isolation from the iPhone on carriers like T-Mobile and Verizon. Without Apple as an option, customers on other networks have had to switch providers and endure both porting difficulties and possible early cancellation fees just to get an iPhone. Although hard to predict, a Verizon iPhone alone could stunt the growth of Android, and a T-Mobile version could have a reduced but similar effect.